Livid at Livingstone
British Jewish leaders last week told Parliament's Home Affairs Committee that they had reason to believe an attack against one of their communal institutions was in the offing.
Violence and intimidation against Britain's Jews, from Muslim elements and the far-right, has been on the upswing.
All this makes the policies of London's left-leaning mayor, Ken Livingstone, particularly troubling. Livingstone seems committed to building ties between City Hall and London-based Islamists.
In doing so he has discomfited not only London's Jews, but also many of its Sikhs, Hindus, gays, and women.
In July, Livingstone welcomed Egyptian Islamist cleric Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who had been invited to attend a conference in the British capital. Rejecting calls to dissociate himself from the sheikh and his London supporters, Livingstone described Qaradawi as someone "who preaches moderation and tolerance."
He explained: "The fact that I do not agree with Dr. Qaradawi, or other religious leaders, on some issues will not stop me from continuing a dialogue or sharing a platform with them on issues upon which we all agree."
At the July conference the mayor did more than "share a platform." He pointedly invited Qaradawi back to London to attend the European Social Forum scheduled for October. And as if to spite his critics, he gave the cleric a bear hug for all to see.
As it turned out Qaradawi skipped the October conference, but the controversy remains.
The chairman of the British Hindu Council, Venilal Vaghela, said: "The Hindu community [has] genuine concerns about the increasing level of attacks upon our community from extreme elements within the Muslim community. The hero's welcome given to Qaradawi by the mayor will only serve to embolden such people. We feel that Mayor Livingstone has denigrated and dismissed [our] feelings."
When a coalition of 17 groups ranging from the Board of Deputies of British Jews and moderate Muslims to the Hindu Forum of Britain and the Sikh Federation, as well as gay and women's rights groups, asked to meet with Livingstone to discuss their concerns about the cleric, the mayor refused.
Sources in the British Jewish community told the Post they are concerned about the deepening relationship between City Hall â€“ spearheaded by mayoral aide Redmond O'Neil â€“ and Islamist forces inside Britain, particularly those led by the Association of British Muslims, which the community views as a front for the Muslim Brotherhood.
The "moderate" Qaradawi has called suicide bombings "martyrdom operations."
In an October 1, 2004 sermon broadcast live from Qatar, where Qaradawi is now based, he said: "O God, destroy the usurper Jews, the vile Crusaders... along with their supporters."
Elsewhere he has ruled "it is permissible for him [a husband] to beat her [his wife] lightly with his hands, avoiding her face and other sensitive parts."
Qaradawi is also a champion of female genital mutilation; and has ruled that homosexuals may be put to death "to maintain the purity" of Islamic society.
Livingstone's response: "If you wish to say that I should not share a platform with anyone who seeks to justify suicide bombings by Palestinians, but that I should be indifferent to Israel blowing the bodies of women and children apart with modern missiles, bombs, tank shells and bullets while illegally occupying their land and destroying their homes â€“ I can tell you that I regard such double standards to be pure moral hypocrisy."
If anyone has his morality skewed it is clearly Ken Livingstone. Fortunately, though, he is accountable to the 25-member Greater London Assembly, where the mayor does not hold automatic sway. Critics have demanded the GLA remind Livingstone of his statutory duty to promote harmony across ethnic- and faith-based communities.
Now several members of the GLA from the Conservative, Liberal Democrat, and Green parties have called for an inquiry into both Livingstone's lack of consultation with groups affected by the Qaradawi visit and his disregarding the statutory obligation to promote racial harmony.
The chances of an inquiry are good.
Such an examination must also delve into Livingstone's apparent desire to foster ties between City Hall and extremist Muslims.
That Livingstone wants to reach out to Muslim constituents makes sense. What's perplexing is his embrace of extremists. Perhaps an official inquiry will provide some answers.